By Kris Jepson

North East families have told ITV News Tyne Tees they welcome a new opt-out organ donation law, which was introduced on Wednesday.

Max and Keira’s law sees a shift to an opt-out system, whereby those aged 18 and over are deemed to have given consent to donate their own organs when they die, unless they explicitly state otherwise or are in an excluded group.

The NHS estimates 700 more transplants a year could be carried out by 2023 as a result of the change in legislation.

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The new law is aimed at boosting the number of transplants to those who need life-saving operations.

The change in legislation was brought about thanks partly due to the campaigning of a young boy who got a new heart from a nine-year-old girl who died after a car crash.

Keira Ball saved four lives, including that of Max Johnson, also aged nine at the time, after her father allowed doctors to use her organs for transplants following a crash in 2017.

A former transplant co-ordinator at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, where Max received his heart, said the change in law still gives people a choice.

There is still a choice to be a donor. Nothing has changed. It’s just legislation which, hopefully, will open up the supply of donors who haven’t previously bothered to register.

Lynne Holt, Former Transplant Co-ordinator

In the North East there are currently 349 people on the transplant waiting list, according to NHS Blood and Transplant:

  • 31 in Northumberland

  • 122 in Tyne and Wear

  • 95 in County Durham

  • 101 in North Yorkshire

Thalia-Beau Wright Credit: Family photo

Thalia-Beau Wright from Scarborough has restrictive cardiomyopathy, which restricts blood entering parts of her heart. There is no cure and she needs a heart transplant.

Thalia’s grandmother, Christine Johnson, told ITV News the law will make a huge difference.

When we’ve been out promoting organ donation awareness, they’ve either not wanted to do it because they’re worried that it will jinx them or they don’t want to tempt fate or they’ve just never got round to doing it and they’ve said the law coming in has actually just done it for them. There’s so many people that maybe would have registered, but haven’t got round to doing it, they will now be in because they won’t opt out.

Christine Johnson
Carter Cookson Credit: ITV News

Baby Carter Cookson was born prematurely on Boxing Day 2018, but within hours fell seriously ill. He needed a heart transplant and was put on an Ecmo machine to keep him alive, however a heart could not be found and he died 25 days later at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.

His parents have campaigned for the law and raised awareness since he passed away and told ITV News the change in legislation is welcome, but warned decisions still need to be made by parents of under-18s.

Sarah Cookson said "to me it’s like for a portion of the population, the decision is already made, if you don’t un-make it, but there’s still obviously the children that people need to think about."

It comes down to the parents now, especially if their child is under the age of 18, that they need to register their child to be on the organ donation list and I think that’s such an important conversation to have. We’ve always said, if you’ll accept an organ to save your child’s life, why would you not give an organ to save somebody else’s life if the worst was to happen?

Chris Cookson